[OPINION] On the 'plus' side of being healthy: Not your typical weight loss story

It was in college when I reached my biggest size. I weighed at around 220 pounds (almost 100 kg) and I wasn’t fit at all. I lost my breath just going up two flights of stairs, and I felt pain in my knees after walking or standing for a couple of hours. I focused on makeup and feeling good about my face instead of my body as a whole. I didn’t show the world that I was ashamed of my size or my weight, but I felt it every day. I took a lot of selfies, but I always hid my body in photos. I coped with my shame with humor so people would forget about how fat I was. I didn’t love my body or even imagined what it was capable of. It felt like my body only let me down.

After graduating from university, I decided to see an OB-GYN. I didn't have my period regularly but I after not having it for 6 months, I got scared. My doctor diagnosed me with PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. This shed some light on why it was always difficult for me to lose weight. I also got a full blood test before my appointment and thankfully, everything came back normal.

This goes to show that you really can’t judge a person’s health just on their size alone. My whole life I thought I was incredibly unhealthy, and some people (who weren’t even doctors!) went as far as "diagnosing" me with diabetes just because I was big. My blood test and PCOS diagnosis proved that I wasn’t a lost cause after all. This was when I started to feel real hope. (READ: 4 common myths about exercise and weight loss)

Once I changed my mindset and went on the medication prescribed to me, I started seeing changes. My mood swings lessened, and it was only then that I started having a positive attitude towards my health and my body. I made the decision to live healthily and give my body what it deserved: nourishment. Improvement, for me, was not losing a certain number of pounds or shrinking by a couple of inches in a short timeframe. What really mattered was feeling good and getting results that lasted.

It’s become a priority of mine to make people realize that size doesn’t matter when it comes to working out and living healthy. Growing up, I was constantly bombarded with the image of the "Fit Girl": a toned model with no body fat. No one cared what the "Fit Girl" could do. As long as you wore a size small, you were fit. (READ: Jesse Mendiola talks about struggle with weight and bulimia

But I was exposed to awesome softball players growing up, and a lot of them didn’t look like the typical "Fit Girl." They had big thighs from all the short sprints between bases. Their arms were muscular from swinging heavy bats or uneven in size from pitching softballs. They didn’t have super defined 6-pack abs. But they would win tournaments then chow down cake afterwards with no hint of shame. 

Those who are naturally thin don’t have to get out of the picture. But there is room for those who are bigger, who don’t have the abs, or who don’t fit in a size 2. There are many younger people now who are into fitness and it’s so uplifting to see. But I feel like we could still add more diversity when it comes to size.

Some of you may wonder why I’m sharing my story now when I technically “haven’t lost that much weight.” It’s because my story isn’t about weight loss. This is about going on a path towards self-acceptance and body positivity.

In my photos, I don’t focus so much on how much I’ve lost; I look at what I've gained. I feel so much happier now, I sleep better at night, and I have more energy. These don’t happen only after losing 10, 20, or 50 pounds. Progress starts the second you begin. And that’s what I want people to be proud of. Be proud of the improvement you’re making as you’re making it. Your size doesn’t invalidate everything you’ve done on the path to living healthier. (READ: Stop bullying us: What's so funny about being fat?)

My motivations in the past were based on proving people wrong and getting revenge. Now that they’re founded on improving myself and loving my body, I’m actually seeing results that last. I’m no longer afraid of food or worried about gaining weight. I’ve been feeling so good that I want to share it with everyone. 

No more diets. No more self-hate. Thank your body for getting you to where you are today. Tell yourself that your body deserves all the love it can get, whether through movement or a scrumptious cookie. You've earned it. – Rappler.com 

Margarita Olivares is a freelance writer and former social media manager. She aims to spread body love, diversity, and positivity for women aiming to live healthier lifestyles. Visit her on instagram: @ohmargaritaplus.